[ilds] uplifting literature

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Thu Jul 19 16:16:46 PDT 2007

On 7/19/2007 6:52 PM, Michael Haag wrote:

>         The suggestion was Charles', made a few days ago.  Lack of uplift, he 
>         said, and now, from James, not fitting in.  It seems our man needs a 
>         bra and girdle to pass muster.

As I said in my first post, my witness to some influential parts of the 
academy's wariness and aversion to Durrell is based upon personal 
anecdote and professional experience, and I am most eager to have it 
tested.  IHere is what I said, now archived in the list:

>         Like non-academics, academics often work under the terms of *too easy 
>         assumptions that become accepted prejudices*.  Mandates and slanders and 
>         even casual asides from the likes of Eagleton or Said have a power to 
>         shape or even cut off attention to Durrell's writings in a way already 
>         mentioned again and again.  I would zero in on Eagleton's variations on 
>         Durrell as a "*literary /flâneur/*."  Although this /flâneur /tag is not 
>         necessarily negative in the larger discussion of modernity and 
>         aesthetics, Eagleton clearly means this as a slight against *Durrell's 
>         lack of commitment to any progressive political ideology*.  Eagleton is 
>         almost certainly speaking via his own Marxism and Simmel and Benjamin, 
>         making a political as well as a literary critique of Durrell the man.  
>         In other words, *Durrell is a mere  /dilettante/*--selfish, solipsistic, 
>         concerned with aesthetics and exoticism in his writing and indulgence in 
>         his own life.  *Now for me those traits are not in themselves negative. * 
>         I admire quite a few writers who might be tagged as /flâneur.  /Lamb. 
>         Pater. Wilde.  Beerbohm.  Norman Douglas.  There is nothing at all 
>         casual about the best dandies.  But for someone like Eagleton of the 
>         1980s and 1990s, well, he needed to say no more.  *Durrell was suspect 
>         because Durrell waited upon no people's revolution.  We have seen the 
>         specific shadow of Durrell's aversion to the communist greying of Europe 
>         in his memories of Belgrade &c. in /Bitter Lemons/. 
>         *
>         In short, I would say that *for the last several decades the Academy has 
>         charted a course of uplift and progressivism.  Durrell would see those 
>         pursuits as siren-songs, I think.  A*nd the majority of literary studies 
>         over the last 30 years have returned that suspicion to him in full.  
>         *What can his writings be /used /for? * &c.
>         Can anyone give specific bullet points pinning down political objections 
>         to Durrell?  My original statement that "political" objections kept 
>         Durrell off the radar used "politics" in a loose sort of way--*politics 
>         as a nod to how people relate to each other and define each other and 
>         hold prejudices against each other*. 

I still think that we are being naive if we think that Durrell has an 
open  /entree /and acceptance anywhere anytime, inside or outside of the 
academy.  That really seems innocent as Adam in his undress.  Our man 
Durrell is difficult in a fascinating way, and I do not mean in 
aesthetic or formal terms, my own point of interest.  I mean that 
politically he looks very strange or silly (not like Durrell) when we 
try to tame him down to support the fashions of our current climate.  He 
is real.  He said things that we cannot explain away.  We do well to 
recall that we fall far short of solving his puzzle.  May that be the 
case for some long time to come.

A good discussion so far.


Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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